Thursday, April 26, 2007

darrow, then death row

Defender. Hedonist. Champion. Adulterer.

A myriad of names is used to describe Clarence Seward Darrow, considered by many to be the most famous lawyer in history. It was Darrow who represented the teacher John Scopes in the famous "Skopes Monkey Trial" of 1925, after he was arrested for lecturing on the theory of evolution in a public school in Tennessee.

Darrow was born in Kinsman (Trumbull County) in 1857, last week being the 150th anniversary of his birth. After receiving his law degree from the University of Michigan, Darrow's first place where he practiced law was in Youngstown.

In celebration of this event, two plays have been circulating the state in April, with its final stops to take place in Northeast Ohio this weekend: on Saturday in Cleveland, and on Sunday in Youngstown.

On both days, starting at 2pm is Clarence Darrow: The Search for Justice, a one-man extravaganza performed by Gary Anderson.

Accoring to Mr. Anderson, Clarence Darrow had two passions . . . "to do all he could to make sure the law protected everyone, no matter how popular or unpleasant; and to prevent the State from taking the lives of its citizens, even those who had taken the lifes of others."

Here is a quick video of Anderson in the role, contemplating the bible and Darwin:

Of course we don't have to worry about intelligent design in today's society. In fact, an excellent article in this week's The Economist explains how the intelligent design and anti-evolution movement is gaining ground across the world.

But aside from this debate, the performance is wonderful.

I sat there in amazment, thinking how an individual could deliver with such passion and directness the life story of Clarence Darrow, evoking the spirit of this man who lived so many years ago.

The two-act event spins through Darrow's childhood, his early career, his fights for justice, his weaknesses as a person, and his ongoing attempts to defend those causes he believed to be just.

Simply a great way to spend an afternoon.

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Then later in the evening at 7:30pm will be another performance, this one named Lucasville - The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising, written by Anderson and Staughton Lynd.

Mr. Lynd is a Mahoning Valley celebrity-resident, attaining his PhD in history from Columbia University, teaching at Spelman College with Howard Zinn, then teaching at Yale, then receiving his Law Degree from the University of Chicago.

From the Staughton Lynd Collection at Kent State University . . .
"The Lynds relocated to Youngstown, Ohio, in the heart of the Rust Belt. Staughton Lynd was an essential participant in the struggle of the late 1970s to keep the Youngstown steel mills open. Despite the eventual failure of these efforts, the Lynds have continued organizing in the Youngstown area. He has also been extremely active as an attorney, taking on a wide variety of cases, including those of disabled and retired workers. In recent years, Lynd has also turned his attention to international issues, such as Nicaragua and the West Bank. After nearly a half century of activism, Staughton Lynd still stands as a beacon of light for non-violent radicalism and community organizing."

Lucasville is centered around the stories of five people - all who are currently sentenced to death row for their alleged roles in the 1993 uprising at the Lucasville prison. Two of the actors who play the five inmates are former prisioners themselves, with a majority of the cast living in the Mahoning Valley.

After the show, there is a question and answer session with Mr. Lynd.

- - -

Looking for something to do this weekend? Then check out . . .

April 28th - Cleveland
Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ
2592 West 14th Street

April 29th - Youngstown
First Unitarian Universalist Church
1105 Elm Street
(east side of Wick Park)

2:00pm - Clarence Darrow
7:30pm - Lucasville

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